California Gov. Jerry Brown has appointed Karen Ross, who for 13 years headed the California Association of Winegrape Growers, as the state's new secretary of the Department of Food and Agriculture.

Ross was most recently chief of staff to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, according to a news release.

Paul Wenger, president of the Sacramento-based California Farm Bureau and a Modesto area walnut grower, praised Brown's selection, calling Ross a "dedicated advocate" for agriculture.

"She has firsthand knowledge about the many challenges farmers and ranchers face each day, not just in California but throughout the nation,” Wenger said in the release. “Her experience working at USDA will provide her with important insights on how government can better assist our diverse agriculture in California...."

Her appointment will require Senate confirmation.